The Best Intentions . . .

The heavens declare the glory of God.  Sunrise, June 18th

It's ironic that the theme of Family Camps '12 is "The Intentional Family"...and it's not lost on me that though I've had good intentions to write an update for weeks now, I've not followed through very intentionally.  Not that I've been sitting around eating many bonbons...but still.  This late night attempt to catch up guarantees unusual brevity...and I'm counting on these pictures to paint many thousands of words.
I'm writing from the sacred cove of Campus by the Sea on Catalina Island, where we've been hanging out for the past 4.5 weeks in our 37th summer of being here as a couple.  We arrived June 18 along with our summer staff team to serve for 7 weeks — running six weeks of family camps, preceded by our orientation week.  As this would be our first summer with no daughters on staff, I'll admit that we arrived with at least a bit of sadness...and though we have missed them greatly, God has been more than faithful in bringing a wonderful team around us.  But first....
For the third year in a row, Lisa and I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Woodstock, VT, June 3.  This is such a beautiful race course and under robin-shell blue skies,  we completed our 5th run together (and my 6th half marathon since Nov. 2009.)  Paul, as usual, was our escort and he makes it so easy for us!  
Just after crossing the finish line, we were awarded our medals and were already talking about our next race. 

We flew to Lancaster, CA, the next weekend to speak at Central Christian Church, and were honored to speak in this new venue.  We also consulted with Grace Baptist Church of Santa Clarita on developing a family ministries model at their church, which gave us some time with our dear friends and ministry partners, David and Cherylyn Hegg.  And we managed to squeeze in a lunch date with our mentors, John and Grace Tebay.  Rich, full days!
Back to Boston to get things wrapped up before the summer, we counseled, cleaned, and packed, and on Sat., June 16, we flew to CA to be with my folks to celebrate Father's Day.  My mom's health is much improved (PTL) and my dad seems to be holding his own.  Though brief, it was wonderful to be with them.

Happy Father's Day, Papa!

We arrived at camp on Monday, June 18, and we were off and running immediately.  Our program team gathered every morning to dive in to God's Word and to discuss the passages that would be used for the summer study.  We were immediately impressed with these college students and their insights into scripture, their character, and their openness.  We bonded fairly quickly and are really enjoying being in community "spurring one another on to love and good deeds."  We feel very blessed and very met by God to be partnering with them.
A highlight of our first days at camp was having Lou and Grace Charette join us for a bit.  They were on our staff in the late 80's, when Grace served as the head cook and Lou as the mechanic.  We have been fast friends ever since and have have watched God do amazing things in their marriage and family.  The staff were all deeply touched by their testimony, which they generously agreed to share during our all staff training time.  It was so good to catch up with them and celebrate God's faithfulness as they celebrated their 56th anniversary.  They inspired us all.
What a treat to have Lou and Grace Charette visit camp, 24 years after serving with us!

The program staff takes a photo break during staff training week.  They're a great group!

Family Camp 1 arrived June 24 and for the first time in our history, Paul and I were not at camp to welcome the campers.  That was strange!  We were in Aspen, CO, doing a wedding, and thankfully had very capable hands to carry on at CBS.  We were very happy to get back on the island before lunch on Monday, so we fortunately didn't miss much.  
We love family camps!  Everything about them.  The multi-generational presence.  The distraction-free environment.  The expectation and joy of the campers.  The way God works.  The beautiful setting.  The simplicity.  The purpose.  The transforming impact.  
"The Intentional Family" theme has been powerful.  It has provoked reflection and recommitment.  Each week we've heard testimony upon testimony of God's work in lives.  Humbling.
Family Camp 1 was extra special for us as Paul's oldest sister, Sandra, and her clan were in camp, as well as his sister Beth Smith, as well as our nephew Brian Rottschafer and his family.  We loved having late night hang-outs with them, sharing old memories, and making new ones.  Sweet times.
Extended Friesen family attended Family Camp 1, launching the summer with lots of laughter and energy.

Family Camp has many traditions . . . like singing the "Butterfly Song" every day, young and old; the annual original Game Show; great teaching from our wise speakers; the square, line, and swing dance; worship under that stars and around the fire ring followed by s'mores; the hike into Avalon; the milk carton boat race; the banquet.  Traditions connect the generations and create a secure foundation for changes that allow family camp to be fresh and inviting.  The mix of the known and unknown produces ongoing engagement and ownership.  
Game Show hosts Vanna and Paul Barker.

Each week we celebrate God's work in our midst.  Great teaching.  Worship.  Baptisms.  Reconciliations.  Confessions.  Prayers.
Paul had the privilege of baptizing Baker and Turner Welch in the chilly Pacific.

Family Camp 3 brought Kari, Gabe, and Brandon, as well as Lisa (who had just returned from Israel where she served on a summer missions project with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.)  It was SO wonderful to have them in camp with us (though all of us deeply missed having Derek and Julie with us, too) and Brandon managed to keep us all entertained with ease.  What a difference a year makes!  He was fully engaged in all the activities available, and especially enjoyed anything the included a ball.  We hiked, talked, swam, laughed, and had a blast.  It was hard to let them go after a week.
Gabe, Kari, Lisa and I hiked the loop together.

Brandon helped Papa with announcements at every meal.

Lunch at Antonio's Pizzeria in Avalon.

Loving playing on the mostly rocky beach at CBS.

Banquet night! By now, Brandon was down with an ear infection and wasn't too chipper, but the party continued.

Sending our little man back to Sacramento. The week passed way too quickly.

Family camp 4 at CBS is almost history and we have only 2 weeks left before we fly east to run our two family camps at Berea.  I wonder if the summer has passed as quickly for you as it has for us.  We'll cherish each day we have left in this beautiful place and be very intentional to maximize the opportunities unique to Campus by the Sea.  
I'm also committed to being very intentional about my intentions to post more often.   
Sunset on the same day, July 18.  Wow.

Wrapping it up in New England ’til September

Forty-eight hours ago we landed on the sacred shores of Campus by the Sea to begin our 36th summer of ministry together in this very special place.  Thankfully, some things never change here.  Like the sound of the ebb and flow of the tide rolling over the rocky beach, or the chirping of birds whose sounds, which are mostly lost in the noisy world we live in, pierce the silence in this place of quiet, or the sounds of worship that make their way from the Main Deck and echo off the ridges which form the protective boundaries of this safe place.  Or the lack of cars, cell phones, traffic, stuff, etc.  In a world in which text messages invade focus and concentration, and headlines and news flashes constantly disturb our peace, we are breathing deeply and allowing this quiet retreat to wash over us restoratively.

We left anything but quiet.  As is always true, it's a race to the finish to be ready for a summer of family camps.  This year was no exception.

After the camping trip at Myles Standish over Memorial Day weekend, we celebrated Julie's upcoming nuptials with a wonderfully meaningful shower.  The "chosen family" friends who came brought gifts wrapped in receiving blankets for her to take to the CURE hospital in Mbale, Uganda, for which her fiance serves as the executive director.  Julie was as excited about the prospect of bringing the blankets to the mamas at the hospital as she was about her own shower gifts.  It was a wonderful night of celebrating all that is good.

The shower gifts came wrapped in receiving blankets for the CURE hospital in Mbale, Uganda.

Julie flew back to San Diego on Tuesday, but Paul, Lisa, and I continued on to Fenway Park to see the Boys of Summer who wear Red Sox uniforms drop one to the White Sox.  We had a blast nonetheless as we enjoyed perfect baseball weather, on street parking, and a refund for our tickets, bought through Stub Hub, because we had received tickets that were 10 rows behind the ones we had purchased.  Sweet.

We got there in time for a close up view of our players as they warmed up.  Very fun.

Early the next morning we drove to W. Cornwall, CT, to speak at the fifth annual pastors and staff conference for Avon Community Baptist Church.  Jay and Liz Abramson lead this church, ably assisted by Tim and Sharon Ponzani.  What a refreshing group!  Their staff has had no turn-over in the five years we've been doing this, which is quite remarkable in itself and reflects the level of health in this church.  We love partnering with them.  The conference is rather low-key in terms of teaching, very interactive, and is scheduled to have plenty of "hang" time.  Walks, croquet, table games, and a little Brian Regan (a great comedian) via DVD filled in the spaces.  This is one of the rare conferences we do that feels as beneficial to us spiritually and emotionally as it is for the group.  A bit of calm in the midst of craziness.

Ever the competitor, Paul came close to winning two different rounds of croquet, but had to be satisfied with two second place finishes.

The team, with Paul standing next to the champion on his left, Tim Ponzani.  Fun was had by all.

Some of the staff had already departed, but this is the remnant of those who attended the pastors’ conference.

We returned home Friday afternoon in time to prepare for the H.I.M. pool party on Saturday, June 4th.  A more beautiful day would be hard to find, and a very happy group of around 80 invaded the Macraes' "retreat-like" property and had a blast.  Jim and Sue Martis did a great cook-out for everyone and the pool, trampoline, soccer field, and legos were enjoyed.  This 8th annual event was a big hit and a great way to launch summertime.

David Swaim explains to Kimary, Lisa, and Barbara why their family showed up at the pool party with a 4-day-old foster baby.

Hard to improve on this venue!

Matthew captures the attention of Lydia and Abby with a good idea (hopefully)!

So much fun was had by all ages in the pool.

Lisa, Paul, and I drove up to Woodstock, VT, that evening so we'd be in the right place to run the Covered Bridges Half Marathon early the next morning. We ran this last year in the pouring rain, and survived, but we were elated that God graced us this year with perfect weather.  We really couldn't have improved on the day:  gorgeous vistas throughout all 13.1 miles, unbelievably lovely weather, and great company. We felt very blessed. Top it off with having a photographer and a driver in Paul, and we could find nothing to complain about.

Except maybe the challenge of running 13.1 miles.  That's a long way!  Before the race, I picture myself as a fleet-footed runner.  That fantasy is quickly dispelled and I return to my reality of being a sure-footed plodder.  At various moments during the race, I question my sanity for choosing to do such a thing and I struggle to believe that I can do it.  I keep plodding.  Lisa cheers me on.  I sing silently "I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me . . ."  I keep plodding.  I check my running watch to make sure I'm making progress.  I win another mental battle as I get a second wind, which I mistakenly believe will carry me painlessly through the rest of the race.  I'm wrong.  I fight to finish.  I cross the line 4 minutes slower than I did a year ago, but very, very thankful to have done it.

And then I begin to think "That wasn't so bad.  I can do this!  When is the next race for this fleet-footed runner?"  :)

All smiles after we've run 13.1 miles together . . .
. . . and even bigger smiles when we hit Dunkin' Donuts after we're cleaned up and on the way home.
I've now logged 4 half-marathons since November of 2009.  It's funny now to think of how I reacted to Lisa's suggestion in Nov. 2008, as I watched her run a half-marathon in Kitty Hawk, NC, that we run together the next year.  “Impossible!” I told her then. I guess it wasn't.

Two days later we put Lisa on a plane to Tel Aviv for her two-weeks-long missions trip with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Reports from her, though scarce due to infrequent Internet opportunities, are glowing.  She's loving being able to serve as the athletic trainer for the athletes running evangelistic sports camps in Israel.  We'll love hearing all about it when she arrives at CBS next Friday.

Lisa's off to Israel as a short-term missionary.

We spent the next two days wrapping it up in New England until we return in September. Counseling filled most of the time, but we managed to get packed up and cleaned up before we flew to California for yet another summer of family camps.

How blessed we are!

Of Football and Princesses

We weren't home long from California (1.5 days to be exact) before we headed back out.  We managed to squeeze in a day of counseling and to wash and repack our suitcases in time for our Wednesday, Feb. 20, flight to Orlando to present a workshop at the Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) conference.   This annual 4-day conference was started by Norm and Bobbe Evans years ago and has been used by God to spiritually impact NFL players for decades now.  Steve and Lori Stenstrom have now succeeded the Evans in providing leadership for PAO, and working with our own Don (retired Patriot) and Yannette Davis, produced another phenomenal conference.  This year's conference featured plenary speakers Dr. Tony Evans, Miles McPherson, and Francis Chan, and we were challenged and blessed by each of them.

It's a huge honor for us to be invited to be on the workshop team each year.  This year, we spoke on "how to keep your marriage alive while raising kids you like."  The subject obviously hit a chord as our workshop was packed out with very responsive attendees.  It also spawned many sidebar conversations during the remaining days of the conference, as we were fortunately scheduled to present of the first full day of the conference.

It was such a joy for us to reconnect with four current couples from our Patriot's couples' study as well as with at least that many ex-Pat couples.  Every moment of the four days was spent either in sessions or hanging out with friends in the beautiful Omni Resort in Orlando.  The mix of work and play was refreshing.

We came away with a lot, and admittedly, we're still processing—especially the talks given by Francis Chan.  He has an uncanny and consistent way of stirring the water and replacing comfortability with conviction.  His passionate plea to be "all in" for Jesus was lost on no one, and he quite possibly stands alone as the only speaker we've ever heard at PAO who expressed to these NFL players the sentiment, "I feel sorry for you."  He continued to explain why: that because of their status, their wealth, and their being idolized, it will be very difficult for them to fully surrender to Jesus.  He reminded them that their sense of value and worth could ultimately be found in nothing other than Jesus, and that in their arena, they face so much competition for their identity.  He actually wept for the players, as if he really did understand the seductive forces at work to pull them away from the heart of God.  He closed the final evening session by asking everyone to get into a posture of humble surrender - on our knees - and it was an incredibly moving moment to hear the scuffle of chairs and the sounds of 450 people bending their knees to God.  

I was deeply blessed to receive this email from a dear friend after the conference:
"I just wanted to let you know that PAO has  done wonders for us. We have had so many talks since we have been back—more than the last five years . . . lol!!   My husband is really opening up to me—I am loving it. Our relationship actually feels more real now than it ever has.  When you are finally convicted by the Holy Spirit, you just don't shut up!! He has been talking and praying and listening and confessing and repenting since we came back!! I tried sneaking in there a few times that he isn’t flawed alone but I don’t think he even heard me.  I am like,  “God please keep working on me because at this rate my husband will be a saint!!’  I am thankful!!"
Wow!  That's just one piece of evidence that God was at work in a big way at the PAO conference.  Rejoice with us!  We know first hand that when God gets ahold of an NFL player, their natural platform can be used to advance God's purposes in a big way.  Pray for these men and their wives especially, that they wouldn't settle for or be seduced by the temporary things this world offers and defines as successful.

Some of our Bible study couples at the PAO conference.  We had a great time together.
So, you get the football part of this blog’s title, but princess??  What's that about?

The sun had barely set on the PAO conference Saturday night, Feb. 26, and it surely hadn't risen the next morning when I had to rise to join 14,000 "princesses" who would pound out 13.1 miles running in the "Disney Princess Half Marathon."  It was too good an opportunity to pass up, really.  We were in Orlando, and our conference ended just in the nick of time, and my goal of running 2 half marathons a year was lagging . . . so I ran.  It was my first "alone" run, which probably sounds ridiculous, since I've already said there were 14,000 runners.  But my running partner in crime, daughter Lisa, was unable to get out of her work commitments (she's currently the Athletic Trainer for the women's division 1 basketball at JMU, and obviously they're in season), so I ran "alone." 
Sort of. I was able to recruit several Patriot wives to run as well, but, truth be told, I still ran alone.  I didn't want them to set their "personal worst" time by running with me, so I genuinely wished them well and encouraged them to run their race.  I have given that freedom to Lisa in the previous runs we've done and I'm so thankful she's never taken me up on it!  It makes a big difference to run with a motivational coach who can actually run and talk for 13.1 miles and not get winded or sweaty.

Taking the shuttle bus from the Animal Kingdom Lodge at 3:30 am, God did something very special for me.  I sat down next to a woman who I discovered within moments was also running alone.  She was also from New England (CT) and we soon discovered that we had a lot in common, including some mutual friends.  Out of 14,000 women, I would sit next to Heather! I knew that God had orchestrated it.  She was a gift then and I imagine will continue to be in the years to come.

We're ready to run!  My new friend Heather is in the middle.

And so, in the still dark morning, we gathered.  I was quite in awe of the hundreds of princesses who dressed the part!!  There is a high entertainment factor in this run.  Tinkerbell, Snow White, the Fairy God Mother, Ursula, Minnie and Mickey Mouse—they were there in force, contributing to the "eye candy" this event is famous for.

With fireworks brightening the still dark sky and shattering the early morning quiet, the run started at 5:45 am.  Having grown up in SoCal with enough Disneyland exposure to make it one of my favorite places on earth, it was a total blast to run from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom—through the park—with no one but characters and fellow runners.  There was something very magical about running to Sleeping Beauty's Castle with the sun rising behind it, and to be cheered on by Disney's wonderful cast of characters at every turn.

It was about the time I came upon Prince Charming and Cinderella's carriage (which evolved from a pumpkin) at mile 9 that I began developing calf cramps, and suddenly my dreams of a "happily ever after" ending dimmed.  At that point, I was on track to actually set a personal best time, but the last 4 miles were punctuated with calf-stretching breaks.  Thankfully, I was able to finish and wasn't too much slower than my first run.  

Even though I read a t-shirt that read "Princesses don't sweat, they sparkle!!!", I was one sweaty princess on the arm of Prince Charming.  :)

My third half-marathon is now in the history books and I'm already preparing for #4 in Vermont in early June.

I am so thankful to have the physical health to do such things.  I'm not a natural runner and let me assure you, it's not easy for me to run that long.  It's actually posed the biggest physical challenge I've had in my adult years.  And it's produced some really positive benefits for me, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

The big take-away for me from this run is a reminder of how important community is.  That's obviously not a new thought, but I was struck by how much of a difference it made to run this race "alone."  It was so much harder!  I had way too much time to think about how easy it would be to give up when you're alone.  It's become a bit of a joke that I've inspired at least a dozen young women to run, who have new found confidence that they can do a half marathon if I can do one.  Many thoughts paraded through my head that morning that echoed such sentiments.  After all, if I can run a half-marathon at 56, anyone could run one.  There were times during the 13.1 that I really doubted if I could.

But I pressed on, and as the hot Florida sun slowly rose in the sky, I was motivated to finish sooner than later, since it was only going to get harder and hotter.  It was such joy to cross the finish line and have my own Prince Charming awaiting me with a sign and my Patriots travel mug full of ice water.  After the race is over, it doesn't seem so bad at all.  A bit like childbirth, I suppose.  Back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge we went to recover by hanging out in their beautiful pool.  Amazingly, we met up with my new best friend, Heather, and her husband, and spent several hours animatedly discovering each other's life stories.  As I flew back to Boston late that night, I was a tired, but very thankful and fulfilled Princess, with a mind swimming with challenging thoughts and happy memories.  In some ways, it was a happily ever after ending.  At least for now.

My "Prince Charming" was waiting for me at the finish line.  What a guy!!